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Free at Noon Flashback: Marissa Nadler turns World Cafe Live into the Roadhouse

Marissa Nadler | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

I don’t know if Boston singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler was a fan of Twin Peaks: The Return (or the original series, for that matter) but I could 100% imagine her downbeat, distressed electric folk resonating from the stage of the roadhouse at the end of an episode.

Nadler performed at World Cafe Live today for WXPN’s Free at Noon concert series, on the heels of a Boot & Saddle gig earlier this week; her latest record, For My Crimes, was released in September on Sacred Bones Records. Her setlist pulled predominately from that record, with the exception of the spectral closer “Drive,” which came from Nadler’s 2014 album “July,” and the tender beauty of “Leave The Light On,” which came from the demos compilation Before July.   Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Shy Boys introduce Kansas City indie pop to World Cafe Live

Shy Boys performing at World Cafe Live for WXPN’s Free At Noon Concert | photo by Rich McKie

Shy Boys may be from out of town — Kansas City, Missouri, to be exact — but their two-day stint in Philadelphia has had them feeling right at home. After the band’s show at PhilaMOCA last night, they were gearing up for today’s Free at Noon performance with a hearty breakfast when frontman Collin Rausch noticed that the restaurant was playing XPN over the speakers. It got even more surreal for the band when they heard a promo for own show today, making them feel like they weren’t too far away from home after all. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: It’s a family affair with Huffamoose at World Cafe Live

Huffamoose | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

The new release from long-running Philly rockers Huffamoose was only 12 hours old when the band took the stage at WXPN’s Free at Noon today. To celebrate the release of …And That’s When the Golf Ball Hit Me in the Head, out today on Delco label Winding Way Records, the local four piece spent most of the concert showcasing the album’s heartfelt, midtempo rock songs with a couple throwbacks to their back catalogue. Continue reading →

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Free At Noon Flashback: Ben Vaughn Quintet brings many moods to World Cafe Live

Ben Vaughn Quintet | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

“It’s great to be here in Philadelphia,” Ben Vaughn told today’s Free At Noon audience. “I came here for the weather. I went from fire to ice.”

It is absolutely too soon to be making jokes about the California wildfires that have left 66 people dead and over 200 missing over the past week; murmurs and groans in the audience let Vaughn know that, even if his status as a Cali resident gets him a marginal pass on the quip. But like a true comedian — or a musician for whom witty repartee is a big part of their act — Vaughn is unafraid to fall on his face, get back up, and keep the show moving. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds bring joyful energy and a commanding presence to World Cafe Live

Sister Sparrow | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

Sister Sparrow and her band the Dirty Birds flew into town for a perfectly-timed Free at Noon performance — “Gold,” the title track off the band’s new album, is XPN’s Gotta Hear Song of the Week this week, and they play a headlining show tonight at the TLA. Though it’s become more of a solo project lately after several of the band members found themselves living too far apart to collaborate as much, this afternoon’s dynamic set proved that with this new album cycle Sister Sparrow is spreading her wings more than ever before.

Okay, bird puns aside: Sister Sparrow is the project of singer-songwriter Arleigh Kincheloe; the Dirty Birds are her soulful seven-piece backing band who cover instrumental duties, ranging from saxophone to harmonica, allowing the frontwoman to focus her energy on her powerfully belted vocals and charismatic performance style. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Christine and the Queens brings a midday dance party to World Cafe Live

Christine and the Queens | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

Turns out all it takes to get a Free at Noon crowd dancing that early in the day is permission from Christine and the Queens, a French artist with contagious confidence. But last time the singer, songwriter and producer played a show in Philadelphia, her project looked quite different. Héloïse Letissier was just beginning to find international success with her debut EP, released in French as Chaleur Humaine and in English as a self-titled Christine and the Queens. She’s still recording in both English and French, but this time her new album is simply called Chris, in both languages.

Part of the artist’s reinvention involved shortening her moniker to Chris, and sometimes displaying it as Christine and the Queens. A bigger shift, though, came in her newfound, liberating approach to songwriting as she began to explore the confines of gender, settling into an androgynous appearance and writing music more sharply focused than her previous work. The songs on Chris may be influenced by 80s pop and iconic musicians from David Bowie to Michael Jackson, but as a recent profile on Chris in the New York Times points out, her thoroughly modern lyrics, many about eschewing traditional expectations, counter her retro sound. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Artist-to-watch Ruston Kelly soars in his Free at Noon debut

Ruston Kelly | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

Ruston Kelly came onstage for today’s Free at Noon with the demeanor of a road-weary troubadour who thought it felt more like 9 a.m. than noon, but it didn’t take long for the musician to reveal the powerhouse energy that takes his songs from sleepy, whispered country tunes to soaring belted-out ballads in the span of seconds. The Nashville-based singer songwriter is touring behind his debut album Dying Star and is just in the beginning stages of becoming a familiar name in country music, but with his refreshing, raw sound that’s nothing like what you’d hear on mainstream country radio, he’s well on his way to becoming a champion of country fans who don’t necessarily want to hear about beer and pickup trucks in every song. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: The Bottle Rockets wakes up the midday crowd at World Cafe Live

The Bottle Rockets | photo by Taylor Johnson

Long-running St. Louis band The Bottle Rockets brought a dose of their high-energy country rock to World Cafe Live today for a Free at Noon performance ahead of their show tonight at Milkboy. Touring behind their newly released album Bit Logic, The Bottle Rockets came prepared with a fresh-sounding selection of new songs that blend fiery rock and folksy drawl to wake up the midday crowd. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: The War and Treaty warm up the World Cafe Live crowd

The War and Treaty | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

XPN’s August Artist to Watch, The War and Treaty, returned to World Cafe Live this afternoon for a special Free at Noon performance in between two local shows opening for the Indigo Girls. The Michigan-based duo of Michael Trotter and Tanya Blount Trotter have become a rising act in the soul/Americana world this year, and recently released their debut album, Healing Tide.

The singers started off today’s set with the album’s opening track, “Love Like There’s No Tomorrow,” and although they perform it a cappella, it’s anything but sparse. Both members of The War and Treaty have powerhouse voices that they use to their fullest potential in the band’s evocative songs, which genre-wise run the gamut from gospel to R&B to blues to folk. A third musician joined The War and Treaty onstage for the rest of their set, playing guitar and upright bass, but most of the focus stayed on the husband-and-wife Trotter duo, who share vocal duties while Michael plays keys and Tanya adds occasional tambourine. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Doyle Bramhall II delivers a scorching set at World Cafe Live

Doyle Bramhall II | photo by Taylor Johnson for WXPN

Doyle Bramhall II may not be a household name, but a quick look at his past collaborators is credentials enough. Since the 90’s he’s worked with Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Elton John, Allen Toussaint, and countless others. Spending an hour with him at today’s Free at Noon was enough to understand why he’s in such demand. Bramhall plays the blues with a conviction few can match, and has the stage presence to back it up. Performing selections off his new album Shades, released just today, Bramhall owned the stage with his powerful musicianship. Continue reading →